Wednesday, April 23, 2008

rough day

today was really rough and perhaps the first truly aggravating day at site in a while. it was a flurry of of mixed emotions and i am utterly exhausted. it didn't help that today was blazing hot and i have a wicked sinus infection. seeding 3,000 sacks and two bareroot beds is turning out to be a lot harder and more time consuming that i thought it would be and i have found myself crouched over my pepineer for hours on end seeding. this process also requires seed pre-treatment in the mornings and evenings as each species has a different amount of time to soak in water in order to get the most sucess from the seeds. it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so fucking hit -- the sun is blazing by 10AM and i practically water my trees with my sweat. i haven't had much help -- not that i ever really expected it for this part of the process -- but it hasn't bothered me until today when i went down to the valley to help out the world vision pepineer.

diakho had stopped by the other day and asked me to come out and help with filling sacks and to talk with the world vision people so that we could collaborate. i told her that i would go when i was done seeding, but it turns out that the seed of my favorite tree (Cassia siamea) is a bitch to seed as they are thin and small and i guess because of the properties of water (adhesion? cohesion? i always forget.) stick terrible to the skin and require extra effort to seed. because i am a time and commitment freak, i started to stress out when it was 11:30 (and i had started at 7:45) and i still wasn't done. i don't like breaking my word and even if the Senegalese are notorious for making commitment they don't intend to keep, i have made it a point to live to what i say here. by the time i was done it was 12:30 and i was exhausted and thirsty but because we've had problems with our robinet resulting in red water (which i am too scared to drink) i went thirsty and headed out to the valley with fatou.

when we got there, we were approached with a scene that should have made a forester's heart jump for joy -- throngs of people gathered filling sacks, sifting soil, and laying out beds for sacks. but maybe it was the heat or the thirst or just my pride, but i got angry instead. where was this kind of help when i was seeding my sacks? i was happy to have 10 people help me with my sacks that took me 3 weeks to fill but i couldn't help but realize that in one day, WV would triple, quadruple the number of sacks sitting in my pepineer. was this why they wouldn't let me do my pepineer in the valley? why didn't anybody tell me this was going to happen?! i wouldn't have felt the need to do a 3,000+ sack tree nursery if i had known this was going to happen!

most of all, i got angry at the men. i've been increasingly getting sick of the males here -- the constant propositions, the laughing and disbelief when they discover i am not married, the lectures about how a woman is incomplete without a husband and children and that i can't possibly be happy, the swaggering, the laziness, the cockiness, the sitting around and watching us women pull water for hours while they do nothing and complain that there is no work in this country. the men in my village are actually very kind and respectful of me -- but only two men ever showed up to help me when i was filling sacks. but i can't even count the number of times fallou (not the baby and whom i refer to as the "village idiot" in my head) has come over and yanked away my shovel telling me that this is why i need a husband and then subsequently shoveling a load smaller than mine. and of course every day i have to deal with talla treating me like an idiot and his wives as servants because we are women. so it was absolutely infuriating to show up at the valley and see ALL the men of my village there and filling sacks. and there was talla, flapping around, acting important and greeting me with an "oh, you're here."

as i was walking to a pile of soil and sacks, i was stopped by a huge belly in camouflage and a hand that grabbed mine even before i could look up. ugh, it was m. camara, the birkelane eaux et foret agent that i have been told by mamadou to not work with for a number of reasons, the main one being that he is a rude, abrasive, fucking psycho (really). he was supposed to be my counterpart but since he declined the invitation to counterpart workshop back in IST (oh, and because he is a fucking psycho), i was switched to another guy who has been disappointingly MIA but at least not a crazy person. i've run into him before and have always run away from him because he terrified me and disgusts me. so he stops me in my tracks and without greeting me or anything, demands my name. i tell him and he starts raving about the fact that i have pulaar last name. he is clearly a man who caves for attention and is yelling and i feel everybody turning their attention to this stupid scene he is making about my last name. i have a little spiel about the being wolof but having a pulaar last name (because its not like the first time anybody has said this to me) and people usually quit after i give it because it makes them laugh (it involves me saying "i don't speak pulaar" in pulaar) but of course this doesn't do anything for him and he goes on and on until abdou, the chief of the village, comes over to greet me. this makes camara stop (finally) and i literally see him puff up his chest and try to get all official and down to business and he starts to go off about how i've never gone to see him when i am supposed to work for him and that its just because he didn't go to thies for CPW (well, kind of...) and blah blah blah and i suddenly get the gist that with this lecture and the going-on about my pulaar last name, he is trying to embarrass me in front of all these people so that he can feel big and important. this, of course is not going to fly with me and stow away the humble peace corps volunteer persona and whip out angry american, stand up straighter, look him in the eye, and raise my voice. i interrupt his babble and sternly tell him, NO -- i don't work for you, i work with aly in kaffrine and if he has a problem with that, he needs to talk with my boss mamadou who works for corps de la paix. its the first time my villagers have seen me legitimately and totally pissed (other than on sunday when some dude called me a "ching chong" to which i yelled at him that he was rude and that i had a name and that what he was selling was ugly and even so, only yaay fatou witnessed this and after he left, she quizzically asked me what a "king kong" was) and he was quite startled by my assertion. i stood my ground, glaring at him, and he waved his hand in dismissal and went off to go practice his authority elsewhere.

at this point i was really riled up but put away my pride and reminded myself that only one man had offended me -- not the entire community -- so there was no reason to get angry at them. i forced a smile and chirped ,y greetings and headed over to fill sacks which i took out my anger on as i stuffed them full of soil. however i kept replaying the scene in my head and got more and more annoyed and soon got fed up with filling sacks. i'm TIRED of filing sacks. this ended for me LAST week, why was i here doing work i had already done? plus, i was tired and getting increasingly thirsty so i stopped after 20 or so sacks. fatou could tell i was fed up so she told me to rest and sit against a tree, so i did and had a nice conversation with a pleasant pulaar fellow (in wolof because i don't speak pulaar) who had something stuck in between his teeth and tried to teach me some words in pulaar but i was unfortunately not feeling very chatty so the conversation didn't last very long.

eventually i screwed up the nerve to announce that i was going home because i was tired and had other work to do. as i was heading out, relieved and ready to drink water until it came out of my ears, i ran into diakho who was very happy to see me. i told her i was going home but she insisted that i walk with her a little before i did. she held my hand and dragged me around and then i asked the damning question of what types of trees they were planning on planting, seemingly innocent, but damning because she replied, "let's go talk to eaux et foret about it!" NOOOOO. but i let her drag me over to where he was sitting (away, in the shade, watching -- probably supervising in his mind -- the women who were preparing lunch for the volunteers) as i clenched my teeth and told myself that i would probably get sent home for smashing somebody's face in with a shovel.

as soon as he saw me he started AGAIN on the pulaar last name thing saying that it just wasn't possible, that there was NO SUCH THNG as a wolof with KA for a last name. diakho -- who had not been there for my previous encounter with him -- simply replied "yes there are!" and tried to get on with business but camara wouldn't get off it and asked the idiot sitting next to him if there were wolofs with pulaar last names and this old guy goes, "no, there is no such a thing." camara has his victory and then this old guy starts to go after me, asking me why i would dare visit his village but not do tree work with them. he tells me i have n oreason to go there if i don't want to work with them. i correct him and that 1) i have family in his village which is why i go and 2) i have full intentions of working with his village but currently is not the best time fore me. he snarls at me that i have no family there and i throw back that YES, i do and rattle off a few names of aram's relatives who live there. he goes from angry to injured and simpers, "why won't you work with me? my family was living with you when you got here!" so he does know who i am (and therefore, thows that there are wolof KAs) and maybe he is just old and senile so i give in a little and am nicer. he then takes 5 minutes to remember the name of the girl who was living here when i got here (sey) to which i ask about her health and he answers and then shuts up, sulking.

in the meantime, camara has been yammering away to diakho and bitching about how PC screwed him over (not true, he never answered our letter of invitation) and getting increasingly angry when diakho artfully steers the conversation back to what i was there for. turns out, he's not even the one with the seeds, WV has them and gave them to abdou. still, i ask, what kind of trees? he must know. he looks at me and tells me that i don't know the names of trees. i then tell him actually, yes i do, in fact, the wolof, english, and latin names. he asks, "latin?" and looks befuddled. i curtly respond, "guy-baobab-Adansonia digitata; daqaar-tamaring-Tamarindus indica." he gets the picture and even allows a slight look of impression and tells me a few names in latin and starts speaking to me in french. my french isn't very existent these days, but i can still understand it well enough, so because i refuse to let this man treat me like i'm lesser than him, i repeat whatever he says to me back to him -- but in Wolof, pretending as if i am checking to see if i get what he means but really probing to him that i totally get it and that he doesn't have to condescend to me by speaking french, i know his local language.

maybe diakho senses the tension because she again changes the subject and gets him to begin bemoaning the troubles of his work and the lack of money and a whole bunch of other shit that i stop listening to because i am so freakin' thirsty and want nothing but water. suddenly, he gets up and says he's leaving. as he passes me, he touches MY BELLY (!) and says condescendingly, "don't worry, we will work together" and i am seething inside and want to badly to hurt this man but refuse to let him get the best of me. he finally leaves and diakho starts a conversation with the old crazy guy and i finally implore her if i can go home now. i barely wait for an answer and start walking back.

at this point it is about 2:30PM and the sun and heat are just getting at its worse. the sand is burning through my sandals and even though it is like, a 1/3 of a kilometer away, i keep picturing myself passing out on the road of dehydration and the buzzards picking at my carcass. i finally get back and practically collapse onto the floor. i am sweating like mad and trembling so i drag myself outside and douse myself in water and wrap myself in a wet sheet. i drink the bucket of red water -- i would rather get sick than be thirsty and sweat for the next hour. in the meantime, aram brings me lunch -- she looks a bit confused at my state of being but wisely leave me alone. i eat and it is good -- but it is both hot and spicy which increases my sweating and the hut is hot and the air is stale and i am overall terribly uncomfortable.

i give up on the hot food and tear into two mangos and in the meantime, text mamadou telling him to please call me. 5 minutes later he does and it is so good to hear a familiar voice speaking english and i tell him about the situation with camara and ask that he makes sure that the man is aware of the fact that he is not -- and never was -- my counterpart. mamadou immediately replies that he will set the situation straight. he also expresses his appreciation for my calling him which is good because i was scared that i was blowing it out of proportion.

i allow myself a short break but really, there is way too much work to do to allow myself the rest of the day off so at 5, i drag myself out of the hut and start seeding again. it is still hot and i am, once again, sweating profusely. despite all the sweat i have substantially calmed down and the mundane task of seeding further soothes my frayed nerves. aram comes to help me out a little and we chat but she is not feeling too well these days she stays for a little. i wouldn't want her overworking herself anyways since her health has really been worrying me. by the time i've doubled dug and seeded a bareroot bed for my two Leucaena species, i am exhausted. it is not so much that the work is rigorous but the heat really wears you out. i muster up the last of my energy to water the pepineer and finally head back into my hut. unfortunately though the day's work is not done, i still have afternoon chores to do before i can shower and call it a day. mamasou saves the day by coming in and sweping my hut for me and dusting and helping me put things away. this girl is such a godsend and i often do consider her the little sister she so badly wishes to be.

in the meantime, dey fatou sees my failed attempts to shell mango seeds (a hammer, a nail, a knife, and mangled seeds strewn about my floor) and successfully shells one for me. i am delighted and it turns out that shelling mango seeds is something she seems to enjoy doing. she basks in my praise and runs off and shells 3 more. i plant them and pray that they will work and not get attacked by termites.

finally i can shower and it feels wonderful. i am a little frustrated to discover that i accidentally left my soap bar out in the sun and it has melted all over the place but it is a small frustration in comparison to the rest of the day's events. i'm finally bathed and can call it a day and head over to my stick bed when talla comes home and announces that he had SUCH a long day but that he HAD to be there because he knows SO much about pepineering and acts all smug and important and doesn't even have a clue as to the amount of work i got done today. i don't mention it but later fatou does and he is surprised (isn't he always when i demonstrate my ability to act independently?) and instead of saying anything positive, he instead admonishes me for going to fill sacks if i ad all this work to do here. to this fatou snaps that i had told diakho i would go but he doesn't get the hint to shut up and tells me that i shouldn't got ot eh valley if i have other things to do at home because they "don't need me." i nearly ask him, why then, is there an agroforestry volunteer living in his compound? but instead let it go and i answer him with silence.

so it is finally the end of the day and i am only left with two assurances, 1) that i will sleep well tonight and 2) with the way things go here, tomorrow might wind up being the best day and if not the best, probably better, so there is no point in letting my anger and frustration ride over. thank God the day is finally over and i have no died of dehydration and hopefully tomorrow will be nothing like it was today.

No comments: